Night of the Dance


Duration: 5 minutes

Baritone and Piano

First performed by William Vann and Tom Ellis, 21 February 2000, Bedford School, Bedford

Listen to Night of the Dance by Alan Charlton performed by David Cargill Todd (baritone) and Nigel Nash (piano):

Programme Note

A setting of the poem by Thomas Hardy, ‘Night of the Dance’ describes the preparations for a dance to be held later in the evening, through the eyes of a man who hopes that at the dance his love will “return his vows”. The poem is full of evocations of the atmosphere of country life, with its night-time noises and carefully drawn rural festivities. Above all, it invokes a tremendous sense of anticipation that increases as the poem progresses, and rekindles perfectly the sense of exhilarating dread of an impending emotional encounter. I sought to capture the dramatic shape of the poem through the simple means of building the piece around a two-note alternation that starts coldly at the beginning and gradually warms up and gains momentum until it is transformed into the full-blooded dance and talk of love towards the end. I also tried to evoke something of the sound world of the poem, such as the half-awakened sparrows flitting from the gable thatch and the open strings of the viol-tuning.